Matt Ruskin and Scott K. Rosenberg’s film Word.Life shares its title with the 1994 debut by criminally underappreciated Brooklyn rapper OC. If unintentional, it seems highly appropriate, as OC’s album was a beacon of thought-provoking positivity amid the sea of gangsta posturing in the nineties, and The Hip Hop Project aims to do the same for the underserved kids who are it members. The film follows Chris “Kazi” Rolle, who went from an orphan in the Bahamas to a homeless hustler in New York, and who eventually heads up the nonprofit Hip Hop Project, designed to help disadvantaged youth express themselves through music. The program aims to give these kids a positive forum to vent their anger and focus on an attainable goal, in this case the writing, recording, and production of their own hip hop album. Following the program over a four year period, the film also spends individual time with these budding emcees, showing the hardships in their lives which come out in their lyrics. There’s Cannon, who has to deal with his mother’s multiple sclerosis and his own waning interest in completing high school. Or Princess, who still carries the emotional effects of the abortion she had as a young teenager, and whose father has recently been incarcerated. The kids’ talent is undeniable, though in the beginning their delivery is raw and their lyrics mostly ape the manufactured gangsterism they hear in the mainstream. But soon they learn to strike a balance between relevance and reality, kicking complex, socially aware rhymes that never sound preachy or pessimistic. While they may never top the charts, their honest portrayals of their lives ring a lot truer than the “money, hoes and clothes” ethos of mainstream rap.